Senegal: after the abdication, the legacy of Macky Sall in question

Senegalese President Macky Sall announced on Monday that he will not be a candidate for a third term in the presidential elections in 2024. A renunciation that has eased the political climate, which has become explosive in the country, but also opens up uncertainty eight months before. the choice.

“My long-considered decision is not to be a candidate for the election, although the constitution gives me the right to do so.” After months of tension, Senegalese President Macky Sall announced on Monday (July 3rd) that he will not seek a third term in the next presidential election scheduled for 2024.

Immediately the reactions multiplied, many voices expressed their “relief”, while the hypothesis of a candidacy for the outgoing president electrified the country for several months, and his opponents considered it unconstitutional. Macky Sall, elected alternately in 2012 and 2019, had actually had the text revised to include that “no one may exercise more than two consecutive terms of office”. If he assured that he would submit to this rule, however, he affirmed that it did not concern him, since he had exercised his first mandate before the reform and maintained the vagueness of his intentions.

“Overall, his speech raised a sigh of relief in civil society, but also in the streets,” testifies Sarah Sakho, correspondent for in Dakar. “Throughout Monday, the people of Dakar did not hide their concern as they feared violence if Macky Sall officially presented himself for the next presidential election.”

The day after the speech, the president appeared on the front page of all the newspapers, which, among other things, drew: “Macky, what greatness!”, “Macky walks through the front door”, “Macky in the pantheon of great men”. “. “From now on, Macky Sall will be respected. He did what was necessary for Senegal. His gesture is noble”, for her part, a woman responded at the microphone on . “He made a promise to the Senegalese and he ‘kept ,’ praised another.

A dozen contenders for his legacy

“While many welcome this decision, seeing it as the beginning of reconciliation in the country, it also brings with it its share of uncertainty”, nuances Francis Kpatindé, lecturer at Sciences-Po Paris and specialist in Senegal. “And a big question: who will succeed Macky Sall?” he asks.

According to the specialist, several names are circulating within the Alliance for the Republic (APR), the party founded in 2008 by Macky Sall, where the majority favored a new mandate for the outgoing president: Amadou Ba, the current Prime Minister, Aly Ngouille Ndiaye, Minister of Agriculture or Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, Minister of Health. “But all options seem to be on the table,” he said. Especially since the process of appointing his successor is currently vague.

“What will also happen to Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY), the presidential coalition which brings together four of the country’s main parties: RPA, Socialist Party (PS), Alliance of Progress Forces (AFP) and Rewmi?”, asks Babacar Ndiaye, political analyst , director of research at the think tank Wathi, based in Dakar. “Macky Sall’s announcement was late and the coalition is without a candidate eight months before the vote. We will have to quickly find someone within the coalition who is able to federate and bring people together,” he continues, referring to the idea of primary election. , which would be news.

The issue is all the more burning as the president of Rewmi, the former opponent and former prime minister Idrissa Seck, had provoked a split and formalized his presidential candidacy in April. The 63-year-old politician came second in the last vote in 2019. In 2024, it will be his fourth candidacy for the highest office.


Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall in the running?

On the opposition side, however, the competitors seem to be working. “Several candidates have already been declared, such as Aminata Touré – former prime minister of Macky Sall, who slammed the door to the majority in September 2022, or Abdoul Mbaye, prime minister just before her.”

“But the question still arises about the eligibility of opponents Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade or not,” continues Francis Kpatindé. The future of the two men had been one of the most anticipated points in the national dialogue between the government and the opposition in June. Normally, the electoral law permanently disqualifies anyone sentenced to more than five years in prison. However, Karim Wade, son of former president Abdoulaye Wade, was sentenced in 2015 to six years in prison for illegal enrichment before being pardoned and going into exile in Qatar. Khalifa Sall, former mayor of Dakar, was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement of public funds before being pardoned.

However, during the national dialogue, the Political Commission advocated an amendment to the text that would enable the rehabilitation of the civil and political rights of convicted persons who have benefited from a presidential pardon and who have served their sentence. “The two men should therefore be able to stand for election. But at the moment the timetable for the implementation of the measure is very vague”, notes Francis Kpatindé.

“The national dialogue had also made it possible to return to the sensitive issue of sponsorships – a filter that had excluded many opposition candidates for the 2019 presidential elections”, recalls the specialist. “The number of mandatory signatures has been reduced and candidates should now be able to have their candidacy validated by elected officials.” So many measures that “would allow more candidates to vote”, summarizes Francis Kpatindé, who expects dozens of candidates to succeed Macky Sall.

The great unknown Ousmane Sonko

Above all, there remains the great unknown associated with the fate of political opponent Ousmane Sonko. On June 1, the latter was sentenced in his absence to two years’ imprisonment in a morals case, making him in the present state ineligible. A trial he relentlessly condemns was intended to keep him out of political life. However, the court did not rule on a possible arrest. In the wake of his sentence, serious unrest broke out in the country, killing 16 people according to the authorities, 24 according to Amnesty International and around 30 according to the opposition.

“And in the ranks of the opposition, the idea of ​​Macky Sall’s candidacy crystallized as much anger as the fate of Ousmane Sonko,” the specialist said. “This decision by the president to give up a third term is a victory for the Senegalese people, who had made it clear that they would not accept a third term from any president,” congratulated Yassine Fall, vice president, on France’s 24th – president. by Pastef, Ousmane Sonko’s party. Before he adds: “But it is out of the question that we let Macky Sall decide who will be a candidate by excluding his main opponent through a political trial.”

Ousmane Sonko had on Sunday night called for mobilization, regardless of the outcome of the speech, to lead “the definitive fight”. A call that was ultimately not heard by the population. “But that could quickly change and tensions could resurface depending on his future,” says Francis Kpatindé.

The dissident, who claims to have been blocked by the security forces in his home in Dakar since May 28, can now be arrested at any time. If so, the cards can be reshuffled. Judged in absentia, Ousmane Sonko would have the right, if he turned himself in, or if he was arrested, to demand a new trial. It would overturn his conviction. In other words, the counters would be reset, including regarding his suspension. “The legal soap opera is therefore far from over and can revive tensions at any time”, sums up Francis Kpatindé.

“It will be the first time in the country that an outgoing president will not be a candidate for re-election. This will open up the game,” concludes Babacar Ndiaye. “Now it is to be hoped that this will also allow potential successors to develop their program of majors: health, education, youth employment.”

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